Sao Paulo, Brazil
Brazilian soccer legend Pelé, who won three World Cups and became the sport’s first global icon, has died aged 82.
“Everything we have, we owe to you,” his daughter, Kelly Nascimento, wrote in an Instagram post below a photo of the family holding Bailey’s hand. “We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Bailey was taken to a hospital in Sao Paulo in late November with complications related to a respiratory infection and colon cancer. Last week, the hospital said his health had deteriorated as the cancer progressed. He died Thursday of multi-organ failure caused by the progression of colon cancer, according to a statement from Albert Einstein Hospital.
For more than 60 years, the name Pele has been synonymous with football. He played in four World Cups and is the only player in history to win three, but his legacy extends far beyond his trophies and remarkable goalscoring record.
“I was born to play football like Beethoven was born to compose music and Michelangelo was born to paint,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s life photos
Tributes have poured in for the football legend. Pele’s first club, Santos FC, responded to the news on Twitter, sharing the word “eternal” alongside an image of a crown.
Brazilian soccer player Neymar says Pele “changed everything”. In a post on Instagram, he wrote: “He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave voice to the poor, to black people, and above all: he raised the profile of Brazil. Thanks to the king, football And Brazil’s status is elevated!” he added.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe said of Pele’s death: “The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten.”
A spokesman told CNN that Pele’s wake will be held at Vila Belmiro, the headquarters of Santos FC in Sao Paulo state. The time and date of the event have not yet been announced.
Pelé was born in 1940 in Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, a town about 155 km northwest of Rio de Janeiro. miles inland before his family moved to the city of Bauru in São Paulo.
As a child, his first encounter with football was playing barefoot, rolling socks and rags – a humble beginning that would grow into a long and fruitful career.
But when he first got into the sport, his ambitions were modest.
“My dad was a good footballer, he scored a lot of goals,” Pele told CNN in 2015. “His name is Don Dinho; I want to be like him.
“He was famous in Minas Gerais, Brazil. He was my role model. I always wanted to be like him, but what happened, to this day, only God can explain.”
Pele left home as a teenager to train with Santos and scored his first goal for the club before his 16th birthday. He would go on to score 619 goals in 638 appearances for the club, but he is best remembered for his achievement in Brazil’s iconic yellow jersey.
In 1958, at the age of 17, Pele made his World Cup debut and let the world see his dazzling skills. He scored Brazil’s only goal in the quarter-final win over Wales, followed by a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals and two goals in the semi-final against hosts Sweden.
“When Pele scored the fifth goal in that final, I have to be honest, I wanted to applaud,” Sweden’s Sigvard Palin said.
For Pele, the most memorable memory of the tournament was putting his country on the sporting map.
“When we won the World Cup, everyone knew about Brazil,” he told CNN’s Don Riddell in 2016. “I think that’s the most important thing I can give to my country because after that World Cup we’re known.”
Another World Cup was won in 1962, although Pele missed the latter stages of the competition through injury. Further injuries hampered his next season in 1966 as Brazil withdrew after the group stage, but redemption came in 1970.
“Pelé said we were going to win, and if Pele said that, then we would win the World Cup,” Brazil’s co-captain Carlos Alberto said of the World Cup.
The team — featuring Jarzinho, Gerson, Torstein, Rivelino and, of course, Pele — is considered one of the greatest teams of all time.
IIn the final – a 4-1 win over Italy – Brazil scored arguably the most famous World Cup goal of all time, a sweeping game involving nine of the team’s 10 outfield players.
In the end Pele kicked off for Alberto, who slid the ball into the corner of the net. The Brazilian mantra jogo bonito (beautiful game) has never been better summed up.
Pele, who considered retiring before the 1970 World Cup, scored his own goal in the final and went on to score four throughout the tournament.
“Before the game, I told myself that Pele is just flesh and blood like the rest of us,” Italian defender Tarcisio Bornic said after his side’s defeat in the final. “Later, I realized I was wrong.”
The match ended Pele’s World Cup career, but not his time in the spotlight. In 1975, he signed a contract with the New York Cosmos in the United States with an annual salary of 1.67 million US dollars.
With his otherworldly personality and extraordinary dribbling skills – hallmarks of his game – Pele helped the Cosmos win the NASL in 1977 before officially retiring.
The league, which attracted more big names such as Georges Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer, didn’t last long, eventually disbanding in 1984. But worldwide, Pele’s influence endures.
He has stayed in the public eye through endorsement deals and as an outspoken political voice in support of Brazil’s poor. He served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for many years, working to promote peace and support vulnerable children.
Health problems persisted throughout much of Bailey’s later years. He gets around with the support of a walker — which he was filmed disdainfully pushing in a documentary released last year — and in September 2021 he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his right colon.
Bailey’s cancer treatment has continued over the past year. His hospitalization in Sao Paulo in November for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar sparked an outpouring of support from the global football community and beyond.
The debate over whether Pele is the greatest player of all time will inevitably intensify – whether it is possible to compare Pele’s achievements with those of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, who have rewritten football records over the past 15 years, or with Diego Maradona, the late Argentine star, captivated the football world in the 1980s and 90s.
In 2000, FIFA jointly nominated Maradona and Pele as Player of the Century, but to some, the clear winner of the award should be obvious.
“The debate about the player of the century is absurd,” said Zico, who represented Brazil in the decade since Pele retired. “There’s only one possible answer: Pele. He’s the greatest player of all time, and to an extent, I might add.”
Exactly how many goals Pele has scored in his career is unclear and his Guinness World Record has come under scrutiny for the number of goals he scored in unofficial matches.
In March 2021, he congratulated Ronaldo of Portugal for breaking his “official game scoring record”-767 goals.
However, there is no doubt that Pele was and always will be football’s first global superstar.
“If one day I die, I will be happy because I did my best,” he told The Talks online magazine. “My sport allows me to do a lot of things because it’s the biggest sport in the world.”